First Impressions of GPS

If history is any indication, the cell phone carriers will keep fumbling their location capabilities, so GPS just hasn’t hit the big time yet. Packages like this GH615 GPS watch could make a dent in things. Given the sub-$10 price of GPS chips, there’s a lot of room for interesting things underneath the mondo, expensive vehicle stuff that’s going out the door now. Oh well.

What I’ve found is that GPS is not as accurate as one would like. Tracks in the city, but not in city-canyons, look like this image from Seattle’s international district:

GPS track in Chinatown

The wandering lines are when I was walking. Stand in one place and there are lots of random squiggles. Stop at a light: squiggles.

It’s funny how the lines can have you on the correct side of the road, going and coming. But they go all fuzzy when you’re walking around. I figure the bigger the highway, the broader the sky view. Walking, you usually have some obstruction nearby, solidly blocking at least direction.

Trees are a major obstruction in this neck of the woods. Tracks from the driveway are regularly separated by 60 feet, north/south. The driveway runs east/west for about 400 feet and is not 60 feet wide. But then, the driveway has no clear view of the sky except straight up and some obstructed views east and west. Hard to triangulate given that narrow an angle to work with.

Let’s mention the feeling you get when you see a track on Google Maps or Earth (or whatever). Fascinating. Consider this snippet:

GPS track inside Issaquah Costco

Unlike the Issaquah Safeway, which appears to be GPS shielded, the track inside Costco does a cartoonish, but reasonable rendition of the track I took inside the store that day! Is that the effect of the skylights in the store?

Back in the mid/late ’80s, when I calculated that it would cost $3 a day to video record everything you did, 24/7, it’s been intriguing to consider the implications of such recordings.

Here’s one that these GPS tracks brings to mind: They bring the past to mind. Note that there are two squigglies in the street as I was going in to Costco. Yeah. There was a long line of cars turning left, so I had to wait once way back and wait again ’cause the light turned before I could make the turn. Now, being reminded of that day-to-day, background item is not important, but consider how such reminders can trigger the brain to remember more important things. Or, consider how such small things can simply take you back to the past.

Or take another angle: An Issaquah traffic engineer might find information in a gob of GPS squigglies from his turf. One must presume that the traffic guys find the Metro/Seattle bus tracking interesting. Speaking of which: that screen shot was done deep in to a Friday night. What’s with the two buses on an off-street?

Hmmm. Cut. Cut. Cut. Thinking for this blog entry is veering in to product idea land. So it’s time to break off and go to B2.

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